I will always remember that night out on Street Outreach when I decided to bring a used pair of off-white slip-on shoes that someone donated at the office. These shoes were from a well known brand (I don’t remember which one, maybe Tommy Hilfiger). Even though they were a bit dirty, I thought: Who knows? Maybe someone may recognize the brand and be happy to receive it.
The whole night went by and we handed out the usual: sandwiches, socks, juice boxes. Finally, as we were ending our shift, one of the last persons we saw that night (if not THE last) asked if we had a pair of shoes. I said: “Yes! Here you go,” showing him the famous shoes. To my surprise, not only did he recognise the brand right away, but he was so happy that he couldn’t stop jumping with joy and thanking us, again and again. Even though these “new-ish” shoes were a bit dirty and a bit too big for him, he was full of joy. (I noticed that his current pair was too small for him and the laces were missing).
It struck me, in that moment, how some of the things that we take for granted can mean so much to someone in need.
– Sophie, Street Outreach Volunteer
30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds Each Day, In Honour of Our 30th Anniversary
This story is part of A Special Series this month in honour of OIM’s 30th Anniversary. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. As you reflect on these stories, please take a moment to PRAY EACH DAY – just 30 seconds – for our ministry’s needs.
Thanks and God Bless You.
Why do you volunteer at OIM?
It’s a question that I have been asking our volunteers lately. The answers that have come back have had one thing in common: a big passion for serving.
Working with OIM volunteers has been a privilege for me. It’s encouraging to meet people that find the time to share a part of their busy lives with our guests with the only objective being to give love and support to the most needed here in downtown Ottawa.
Let me tell you about a few of our wonderful volunteers:
Beth comes every Wednesday all the way from the outskirts of Ottawa to the downtown core, where she has been volunteering at the Office “Stop In” for 7 years. Our guests can always expect her to be here each week where she greets people with a ready smile, a cup of coffee, and a chat.
Sacha is a busy university student, but she comes every Thursday to the Office “Stop In.” She’s always ready to play a game of “spit” with Harold or learn from the guys how to play bridge.
Kirk and Hamish go on Street Outreach every Wednesday morning. Kirk comes early to get coffee going and when Hamish comes with special sandwiches that he made especially for the regulars they see that morning, they hit the roads ready to serve!
Our volunteers are loving, passionate servers with big compassionate hearts. It’s amazing to see a community that really cares about one another.
In spite of all the difficulties that individuals struggle with all around us, I am so encouraged by the people I know who are out there really trying to make a difference.
Gaby, OIM Staff
Earlier in the day at church I prayed for increased spiritual closeness to our street friends. Wow, was I rewarded!
Later that evening, my young street outreach partner and I met 52 street friends. They represented all facets of this diverse culture; those just trying to get by, those seeking secure and comfortable housing, those on disability and those suffering with addictions.
A former “hooker” hugged me while we were ministering to someone and told us both how OIM has positively influenced her life.
Later, a middle aged unmarried couple asked for prayers for themselves and also for the man’s son who was also present. The couple expressed their love for one another and inquired as to how they could be married by a minister.
We had several open and friendly lifestyle conversations with young adults living on the edge and the fringes of society. One young woman confided the food we provided her that night would preclude her from shoplifting and its inherent dangers!
We prayed with others and were both inspired by the rewards of our work for The Kingdom that night as never before. In fact, I believe my outreach partner, who is new to the city and looking for meaningful ways to help the under privileged, felt the Holy Spirit’s presence that night and was re-invigorated by the experience.
Peter T, Volunteer
Recently, a few of us were talking about people we had met through the drop in and where they were. I talked about John, a man that I had met over 15 years ago when we ran our drop in out of another location downtown. John was a homeless man who had his challenges being homeless with mental illness issues. He was a flamboyant individual, colourful, always had an opinion and was willing to discuss any current topic and extremely political. (If he could have found a way to control his mental illness, I do believe he would have made an attempt to become a politician. But that is another story.)
John’s colourful dress reflected his mood and his outlook. I had once told him he reminded me of a peacock because he always had feathers in his hat and he was brightly dressed. I didn’t mean it as an insult and he didn’t take it that way. It sparked a friendship that has lasted many years…
During Christmas of 2005 my father died, predeceased by mother in 1994 and both in the month of December which makes the period of Christmas hard for me.
In May 2006 I am outside the drop in and in a real depressed mood. We had just put dad in the ground and I am dealing with a lot of emotions; guilt, everything associated with the loss of your last parent. With no close family nearby to talk to I am isolated, with my only siblings in British Columbia. John comes up to me pushing his grocery cart filled with his worldly possessions and sees that I am depressed and asks me what is wrong and I tell him. No one else has picked up on this, or if they have they haven’t asked.
He leans over and very quietly says to me, “I have been there brother. I know exactly what you are going through. I am here for you if you need to talk.” He reaches out, squeezes my shoulder, looks me in the eye and something passes between us that can’t be expressed in words. Tears flow and I mumble ‘thanks.’
Every week I give up my time for the homeless, the marginalized, to support them. And, here, it took a homeless man to recognize my pain and hurt and to provide me the one thing I needed: unconditional love. I was humbled, I was loved and I learned a lesson that I have never forgotten.
Love comes in all sizes, shapes and forms. We just need to learn to recognize it and accept it.
Ken B, Volunteer
I ran into one of our clients the other day.
It happened as I got on the bus & looked around for an empty spot.
“There she is!” I heard someone say. It was Ted.
He was sitting alone. The rest of the bus was crowded, cramped. But Ted had an empty seat on his right and an empty seat on his left. Holding an enormous paper bag (a 6-pack of beer inside), he looked weathered, frail, wrinkled, and slightly intoxicated. He smiled up at me.
I sat next to him and we spent the next 10 minutes catching up.
It was like any conversation you might hear on any bus in Canada.
We spoke about Canada Day (how chaotic it was!), the weather (how warm it’s been lately, eh?), and music (I play 1 instrument; Ted plays several. “Like most Newfoundlanders,” I say. He smiles ).
Ted was chatty, friendly; polite and encouraging (“When I was on the streets, your outreach teams helped me out so much!” he says to me. “They are amazing.”)
I couldn’t help but wonder how odd the two of us looked to the other passengers who eyed us cautiously.
I hoped that their expectations were challenged. I hoped that they could see beneath Ted’s rough exterior and see what I saw: the talented musician; the sympathetic listener; the amiable fellow: a typical Canadian.
A deeply troubled background? Yes. Complex mental and physical health issues? Yes. Making strides? Yes.
And above all, still just a guy, talking to a gal, riding on a bus, on our way home.
Innercity Arts was lucky enough to have Patrick Imai, a local carver, volunteer his time to come in to teach us about soap stone carving. Each youth was given a piece of stone, a file, and various types of sand paper.
They were given basic instructions and then invited to try it. I must admit, I was expecting more detailed instruction! But Patrick said the best way to learn was to try it – and of course, he was right. The pieces of stone were grey and rough, and certainly didn’t look like anything special.
But as the youth started filing, carving and sanding, it was amazing the transformation that happened.
Check out some of the finished pieces.
Thanks so much Patrick for sharing your talent with us. We are excited to continue working with soapstone at the art group. We are also excited to see Patrick carve at the Canadian Stone Carving Festival next month. It will be an awesome festival, with proceeds being generously donated to Ottawa Innercity Ministries. We hope you can join us!
Valentines Day Week – just passed. Kudos to all of our volunteer outreach workers in all capacities: street outreach, drop in, office drop in, prayer partners, donors, those who cook for our event dinners, the ones that donate sleeping bags and all kinds of other goodies that we use as tools to make connections with those who live and breathe on the streets of our city.
Sometimes, just sometimes, our street outreach volunteers might walk their routes in minus 30 degrees, and come back feeling somewhat disappointed because on this cold night, they only saw a couple of street friends. Then the thoughts come, “I wonder if I am making all that much difference anyhow. It doesn’t feel like it tonight at least.”
What if it was you?
You on the streets, maybe even on that one cold night when no one much pays you any attention really, and you feel invisible, forgotten, neglected, and abandoned. Then the recurring thoughts from your past come: thoughts of ‘no good’, you’ll never amount to anything, you are not really worth the effort…
Then an outreach worker shows up with a sandwich, a juice box, but more importantly, a smile, an inquiry about your week, a reminder of something that you said last week or time when you last connected, and some random (or planned) word of encouragement that really lifted your spirits…
How would that make you feel?
For the one’s and two’s and groups on the streets, and the teams of two or three volunteers walking and watching- add these together and you have two: one, a great deal of difference in someone(s) life; and two, ‘everything’ (and all that entails) to our those who call the streets their home.
A small thing for us maybe, but what if it was ‘you?’ I know it would mean a lot to me.
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Ottawa Innercity Ministries
384 Bank Street, Suite 300